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The E-Readers are Coming…Maybe

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Books Vs. E-Books, Does One Have to Win?

Newsweek Chart: Books vs. E-Books © 2010 Newsweek, Inc

In the issue of August 9th, Newsweek published an interesting chart which they titled “Back Story: Books vs. E-Books, Does One Have to Win?”  (The image at right is a link to the original chart.)

The answer, as far as we’re concerned is no, neither one has to, or is likely to “win.” We think both traditional books and e-books have their advantages and disadvantages. And, because they do, they compliment each other, meaning that both will be around for quite some time.

Sadly, Newsweek’s chart barely mentions libraries; all it  is says is, “Walking to the library is still the most eco-friendly way to read.” True enough, but what about e-books in libraries? Is that something you’re likely to see anytime soon?

Well, as a matter of fact, e-books are already here at JJML, and e-readers may not be far behind.  Fans of e-books, probably already know that Live-brary (formerly SuffolkWave), the free download service available through JJML’s website, now offers a collection of e-books that can be downloaded to a variety of Sony e-readers, the Nook from Barnes and Noble and the Kobo from Borders. The books are available in both Adobe EPub and PDF formats, and so may also be usable on other platforms that support those formats but have not yet been tested, such as Android smart phones or PDAs. (Unfortunately, they are not usable on Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad and iPhone.) More information and specifications is available on the Live-brary site.

Your ever-adventurous JJML librarians would also like to acquire a few e-readers to loan to our patrons who don’t have their own. We think this will be helpful to many people who may be considering purchasing an e-reader, but are unsure as to whether they will find them comfortable to use. Borrowing one from the library and being able to download books to it from the Live-brary collection would be a risk-free way to experiment with these devices and find out if you find reading on them to be convenient and enjoyable.

However, as with most new technologies, there are a few bumps in the road — having to do with copyright issues and the various DRM (digital rights management) schemes that are built into the e-books to protect the copyright holders — that we most smooth out before we can make these devices available for loan.

Essentially, there are two models libraries can use when offering the loan of e-readers to their patrons. The first would be to offer the e-readers with a predetermined collection of  purchased books already installed. This seems fairly simple, but the question of whether or not this conforms with all existing copyright laws is as yet undetermined. Many libraries currently use this model, with the tacit approval of the publishers — meaning none have been told to stop. However, that could quickly change if a publisher chose to challenge one that model in court.

The second model is to loan empty e-readers to the public, and allow them to download e-books from the free Live-brary service. This too seems simple at first, but due to the nature of the DRM technologies built into the e-books, it is actually quite a bit more complicated than it seems. A detailed explanation of the issues involved is beyond the scope of this post, but I will say that we are looking at a couple of ways to make this work, and that it is likely the model we will end up using, once we have worked out all the kinks.

In summary, if you are already an e-book fan, you now have some additional resources available to you through JJML’s Live-brary website. And, for those of you who are considering giving e-books a try, if all goes well, you will soon have the ability to put one or more e-readers through their paces at no cost to you, courtesy of your local library.

What do you think of e-books/readers? Are they here to stay, or just a flash-in-the-pan? Should JJML be offering them for loan alongside traditional books? We’re anxious to hear from you, so please leave us a comment letting us know what you think.

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